Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 originally released December 9th, 2015.
Michael: To be perfectly honest, I have been putting this write up off. I’m a cynical, curmudgeonly sort of critic. I actively try to fight it but sometimes my nature gets the better of me. People are super excited about Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m happy that people are super excited, honestly. Personally I wasn’t wowed by the limited series’ first outing.
Mysterious happenings are happening in Gotham. Many a scientist is claiming that ninjas and “monstrous creatures” are stealing pieces of experimental military technology. Batman decides to spring a trap for said creatures and ninjas at Wayne Enterprises. Before they meet at the end of the issue, the turtles and Batman trade off villains for a few brief rounds: Batman vs The Foot Clan and TMNT vs Killer Croc. Through a little bit of turtle exposition we discover that they have been transported from their Earth to the Earth of the DCU. The end of the issue finally delivers.
While DC and Marvel haven’t had a proper crossover in over a decade, we’ve seen DC do such crossover events with other pop culture mainstays like Star Trek and Mortal Kombat. I’m always interested in what version of Batman pops up in a brand merger such as this. There have been countless versions of Batman, as well as a healthy number of TMNT incarnations. When you have a meeting of such monumental heroes, conventional wisdom dictates that they’re presented in their most iconic forms. Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 gives us the New 52 Batman pre-Endgame and the reincarnated TMNT of the current IDW series.
We often talk about the inevitability of Bruce Wayne’s return to the Batman role. Bruce will be Batman again because Bruce-as-Batman is a powerful icon. We love the comic book characters that we do because they are icons – no matter what changes creators throw their way we know they won’t deviate too much from the norm. I think that is what kind of bothered me about Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1; it was too by-the-numbers. Nothing about James Tynion IV’s script really excited or surprised me. Batman becomes aware of the turtles, worlds collide, they meet (and will probably fight) and then they eventually team up.
It’s an entertaining enough comic book, and if you evaluate its success based on delivering on the premise then: mission accomplished. Tynion and Freddie E. Williams II’s TMNT/Batman book is like going to Olive Garden and knowing what you’re going to order hours in advance. Is it too much to ask for a little flavor or delightful surprise for my meal? Instead, the book plays it safe and sticks to the familiar and the typical framework of a Turtles or Batman story.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about Killer Croc, if I may. When Killer Croc shows up in the first third of a book you typically know his role: C-story that serves no other purpose than the “first boss level” of a book. I’m not begging for a Croc-centric escapade, but fluffing a plot is Croc’s raison d’etre. Let’s look at his plan, shall we? Croc has a GPS that tracks the batmobile once it leaves the cave (I guess not while it’s in the cave though?) With his keen foresight Croc is counting on Batman to respond to another tech robbery and strip the batmobile for its parts. This plan makes all kinds of no sense and the fact that Croc has $80K to blow on a batmobile GPS is mind-boggling.
I’m on the haterade (trademark DeLaney Enterprises 2015) for this write-up, I’m sorry to say. I love Batman and I often surprise myself with how vast my TMNT knowledge is, but this issue was a letdown for me. Crossovers like this aren’t built to shake up the status quo or make you rethink everything you knew about a particular mythology, they’re just for fun. I get that, I promise. I just am not in the habit of celebrating a piece of fiction merely because it exists. I believe that a TMNT/Batman story can be entertaining and worthwhile. But it’s the creator’s jobs to prove that to me – more importantly, to show that to me.
Taylor! I’m anticipating a more lighthearted response from you. How did you dig the issue? Are you familiar with the current IDW series? Do you think this gels with it from what we’ve seen?
Taylor: It’s pretty hard to say at this point if this series will live symbiotically with the IDW series. The characters and tropes were so bland that much of the creativity and heart that has been put into the current IDW Turtles series goes out the window. We get all of the typical turtle stereotypes here: Donatello having an intellectual conversation during a fight. Raphael getting angry because they have to move. Michelangelo lamenting the loss of something cute. We even get Leonardo being as bland and boring as most readers have probably come to know him. It seems that in trying to please both Batman and Turtles fans, the creators of this series will only please the lay-reader.
It’s not just the turtles who suffer from blandness. Throughout the issue, both Batman and the turtles encounter enemies that, while new-to-them, are quite similar to those they face in their own universes. Take, for example, the showdown between the turtles and Killer Croc. It’s basically mutant on mutant action.
While this might exciting for Batman readers, it’s something TMNT readers are used to seeing. More followers of TMNT have become accustomed to a rotating cast of stellar artists working on the title. So not only are they used to mutant on mutant action, but they’ve probably seen it done better than is rendered here by artist Freddie E. Williams II. That’s no knock against Williams II. It’s just that I think TMNT have a pretty high bar when it comes to the action scenes they see in an issue.
Batman’s scenes suffer from a similar minutia. When he sets his “trap,” Batman soon finds himself squaring off with the Foot clan. But as most Batman fans know, he’s faced similar opponents before on multiple occasions. Heck, it’s even referenced in the issue itself.
Batman has fought the League of Assassins several times, as well as Ra’s al Ghul and Red Claw. Point is, ninjas are nothing new to him and watching him pound some Foot Clan soldiers isn’t necessarily anything terribly new to anyone familiar with Batman. There is a moment where it appears that Shredder and Batman will face off and that’s exciting, but it literally goes up in smoke and proves nothing but a ninja-tease. I suppose that battle probably awaits us in future issues.
So in effect I’m right there with you Michael, this is a pretty bread and butter issue. Or should I say “endless breadsticks and salad” issue? I suppose this mini-series could impress me in the future but nothing in this issue even points at anything that I’m truly looking forward to. This comes from someone who loves the new turtles and readily reads anything they’re in. However, in this case maybe I’d just be better ordering in and staying with my home series.
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